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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Ask An Expert > Answered Questions > I Have Been Cycling My 5 Gallon Aquarium For Over 15 Weeks

I have been cycling my 5 gallon aquarium for over 1.5 weeks. Using jungle strip...


I have been cycling my 5 gallon aquarium for over 1.5 weeks. Using jungle strips to test water. However still very little ammonia (.3), and no nitrates, or no nitrites. Ph = 7.5, Alk = 100, Hardness = 150. Shouldn't I be getting more ammonia by now?

Congratulations on taking an active approach to properly cycling your new aquarium. It sounds like you are doing everything right. The ammonia is starting to go up, and you can use some of the ammonia-binding products to keep it from being toxic to your fish. It will eventually be broken down into nitrite and then nitrate by the beneficial bacteria in your biofilter. The fact that you are not seeing any nitrite yet indicates that you may not have enough beneficial bacteria yet. Normally it takes about 4-6 weeks to develop adequate bacterial populations in the biofilter. You can shorten that to 2-3 weeks by adding beneficial bacteria supplement products to the aquarium.

Be sure you are not adding too many fish into your aquarium. 5-gallons is small and will only hold a few fish, depending on species. Adding too many fish quickly will overload the biofilter. Only add 1-2 fish per week when getting the aquarium started. Also, watch your alkalinity, as it is used up by bacterial activity, and tends to decrease over time. You can keep the alkalinity level above 100 mg/L (ppm) by doing periodic partial water changes. PetSmart offers free water testing if you want to compare your results, and also has free care guides on setting up a new aquarium and on water quality testing.


23 Jan 2011 3:17 pm

BeavisMom62 said:

How are you cycling your tank? Are you using fish or doing a fishless cycle by adding your own ammonia. Personally, I've never done a fishless cycle. I've been lucky enough to be able to jump start my cycle, by using sponges and filter cartridges from established tanks. If you know someone with a healthy tank, see if you can borrow some used media.

Also, helpful hint, the test strips are not as accurate and end up being more expensive in the long run. Most fish keepers prefer to use the API master test kit, which uses drops and tubes to test for ph, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. It generally costs around $30, but with a 5 gal tank it will last for many many months.

Also, make sure that you are using a dechlorinator in your water. If not, the chlorine/chloramine in tap water will kill the bacteria you are trying to grow.

Cycling a tank from scratch, as mentioned above, generally does take around 4 to 6 weeks. Using something like Tetra's Safe Start can speed it up to around 3 to 4 weeks. Jump starting a tank with used media, as I do can take anywhere from 2 weeks to instantly! I was able to instantly cycle a 10 gal tank using this method. First time ever. I was thrilled. Good luck.

Just make sure to keep testing your water and doing partial water changes at least weekly, more if you notice your parameters rising to the unsafe zone. Good luck.

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